To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
So… the $1,000,000,000 question is…. What do I want?
I’d like to clarify this before I continue – What Do I Want isn’t the same as What About Me…
What About Me? That’s a selfish question, a maudlin and self-absorbed chain of thought.
That’s not what I’m asking.
Want and Need are similar, yet different. Want is what we think we desire… but many times, (most times more likely than not, and many times we are completely unaware of it) what we are really seeking is what we Need.
Think about it for a minute – What do I Want? It’s really the fundamental question we are constantly asking ourselves, isn’t it? I mean… how many times a day do you ask yourself that question without realizing that you are asking it?
Sure, it manifests itself in something as simple as — What Do I Want to Eat? And a hundred other ways as well, ways that really only have a sort of surface-level significance… they don’t really impact our purpose or meaning… the big picture as it were.
What do I want to watch? What do I want to read? Sometimes it’s phrased a bit differently… Should I, or Could I or even Dare I… but really, it’s just What Do I Want?
It’s only rarely that we realize we are asking the more pointed version… the one that keeps us awake at night, possibly fearful, possibly confused, certainly wanting.
But when does that thought manifest… or more accurately, when do we become aware we are asking it…?
We must start thinking it at a pretty young age… maybe the terrible twos? I’m not a child behavior expert… I’m just spit-balling here… but the terrible twos seem to make sense. It’s the age when we first start saying no. Maybe some part of our personality that is forming recognizes that it’s time for us to start asking that question… Enough with this getting fed every two or three hours, being dressed and washed and coddled by parents and relatives and nannies and so forth, gosh darn it! … No! What Do I Want?
Or maybe we really don’t start asking it until later, when we find that the world is a hard place… that there are areas outside our safe zone of family and home and we know that at some point we have to go out into those world to see for ourselves “what’s it all about?”
I think it crops up in relationships a lot. It’s certainly one of the clearest examples I think of in my own experience… cropping up most often during an argument or during a break up. Although truthfully it’s being asked of us by someone else: “What do you want?”
But as I said, maybe it’s the underlying question that drives each of us all during the course of our waking lives. We have wants, needs, desires… and we strive to attain them – on some level or another – and more often than not, we hurt someone in order to get what we want.
What Do I Want – at least for me, it may be very different for you – is about seeking that which will bring peace and balance and harmony.
So, What Do I Want?
Honestly? I want to not feel like I am crazy.
Now, I don’t mean that I am crazy or going crazy. I just wake up and go to sleep in this prevailing sense of the surreal… as though I am moving through a waking dream and that at some point the bubble will be popped and I will snap back to reality. But what reality would I snap back to? That’s the part that makes everything surreal… I know that where I am, what I’m doing and everything is the here and now and that this is the real.
I think I feel that way, because it has been a very long time since I felt I was on the road of my own choosing. For a brief time earlier this year that feeling disappeared, for about a month – during the time I was on the road to Pittsburgh and then for a few weeks after I arrived.
Then it went away and again I found myself thinking and feeling that I was in unreality… a false existence, a dream.
It’s safe to say that I haven’t been emotionally stable for a while. And for whatever reason I won’t let myself become stable… I obsess about things, wrestle with demons of the past, and fret about things I cannot change.
I’ve always felt that the world provides; that the world, the universe doesn’t want me to fail or to be harmed. Do I suffer? Yes. But I am not one of the unfortunate… any of the thousands or millions who must deal with circumstances much more horrible and dire than my own. War, starvation, disease… I’ve never been shot at, held hostage, starved or been maimed or tortured.
I’ve been very lucky in most respects, so when I write about me feeling crazy, out of sorts and living in a surreal reality, it’s not to be read as a complaint or whining or whatever… it’s me trying to figure out… What Do I Want? It’s about me trying to get back to a healthy state of being… of being the better person I can be, not the confused, angry, hurt and depressed person I am currently.
I need to find my truth.
When I was about 25 I had an epiphany – I was on the up slope of my budding acting career and was really enjoying the experience of theater a lot, performing in shows and in classroom exercises… exploring the tools and craft of acting. One of the things that any good acting teacher will tell you is that Acting is about Being in the Moment – that in order to convey to the audience that this play or this scene is actually taking place for the first time, you have to be present in it… if not, it’s false; it’s a lie and the audience will see you acting. An Actor has to Be in the Moment. The Actor has to Be True. When the actor achieves that the audience is happy because they accept it as a moment of truth – it isn’t acting, it’s a manifestation of the real.
And that’s when it hit me – In order to live truthfully, you have to Be in the Moment in your life outside of the theater. When You are in the Moment you Are Happy and You accept the reality around you.
Happiness is acceptance. Acceptance is just being; being present, in the moment, unfettered by your expectations of what should be and enjoying the present moment for exactly what it is – that moment. All you have to do to be happy is – just be.
Now, that doesn’t mean, be passive or be uninvolved. It means be accepting. When you are in that state, there isn’t any time or reason for What About Me? Me is irrelevant.
It doesn’t mean that you are detached or disassociated or aloof… it means you are at one with the moment.
In my most creative and “feeling right; in harmony and walking my path” moments in my life has always been in this sense of just being. Centered, calm and balanced.
I’ve tried to live by that tenet ever since… in all aspects of my life, work, play and most importantly, in love. And it gives me hope when I read similar thoughts, such as the following:
ele: So what is love from a sane or enlightened point of view?
Rinpoche: [pause] I think it’s genuinely being able to see the other individual and genuinely taking delight in them. With the quality of genuineness, it doesn’t have to be completely self-fulfilling or self-satisfactory. A lot of times when we have love, it’s still what about me and you make me feel good and what’s the famous line? “You complete me.” It’s always about me, me, me. And if you have that relationship, [laughing] it’s doomed because the notion is actually that the individual should be whole. As opposed to you complete me or you complete the other person.
(original source found here: Relationships, Loneliness & “Ruling Your World.”)
When you are in love, you are accepting that person for their truth. You don’t want them to change, you don’t want them to be anything but what they are… which is why you fell in love with them in first place.
Now, what prompted this little expose, is something unhealthy.
My brain will not cooperate and shut down when I want it too… it has a lot to do with heredity (a lot of my family has insomnia), but it’s also my nature to pick at worries and concerns and old wounds, to solve what is basically unsolvable. So there is this constant mindnoise I have, roiling over and over in my mind, focusing on my dissatisfaction with the end state of my marriage.
I can’t say that I’m dissatisfied that it ended… I was very much when it was happening, I wanted desperately to prevent it from falling apart – but now, and it is over and done with.
I don’t want it back; I don’t want to turn back time; I don’t want to make it so it didn’t happen… want I want is a better resolution to the present state that exists between myself and my ex — I’m dissatisfied with the void that exists between two people who were once such close friends.
So if you live your life in a three piece suit,
In a cocktail dress, or combat boots
You pick your path and you walk your truth
And the world will come round to you. – Sweet Mistakes by Ellis Paul
At one time I knew what path I was on… I walked it with my head up, brave and happy.
The thing is, we don’t recognize when the road changes – or at least we don’t unless the signs are very glaringly prominent. For the most part the road looks the same in front and behind and its only after a long period of time or a jarring event do we look up and find that the road is different from the what it was previously; it has curved away from us and we are on a different road entirely.
Lately I’ve been finding my footing on this new path. In a very real sense I did choose this path, I am where I am due to my own actions and choices – whether they were conscious or unconscious. To lay the blame at another’s feet is ludicrous… I take responsibility for that… for where I am and what I do.
Though, it would also be unfair to say that my being where I am is entirely my own doing. It isn’t and that is the truth. I didn’t set my feet on this path by choice… it was forced upon me by the actions and desires of another… and the frustrating thing is, I cannot – and mostly likely will never be able to – get any sense of restitution or resolution about that.
Any therapist would tell me I just need to accept that and move on… yet, there are others who tell you that its healthy to seek closure and the closure I seek is dependent on a confrontation with the one who had caused me distress… and I call it a confrontation because that is how it would be viewed by the other party – a struggle or conflict, a exercise in futility because they have “moved on.”
Research indicates that satisfaction and happiness after a divorce is still at low levels even up to six years following the event; and that males are more dissatisfied with the quality of life following a divorce. If the research is true, then I’m a typical case study – which on one hand is good, it makes me more or less normal. On the other it’s a bummer because we all see ourselves as unique “But my pain and hurt is different! No one understands!” J
I’m about the mid-point in the healing process of dealing with and accepting the divorce; it’s been about three years since the divorce was “agreed” upon. I say agreed upon because it wasn’t my choice and after the initial shock I found myself trying frantically to save it. I fumbled about like an idiot, racing back and forth between anger and despair clawing at any and every handhold to prevent the end of my relationship.
And then, after some very dark days and nights I eventually agreed to the divorce because, beyond any selfish need of my own, I only wanted her to be happy – I still loved her and didn’t want to cause her any more pain or distress. That’s the truth.
I re-read: Fallen Son – The Death of Captain America recently (what with the film finally arriving and all) and Jeph Loeb (the writer) has Wolverine say the following line: “A death isn’t like losing a job or getting divorced. You don’t ‘get over it.’ You have to integrate it into your life. Learn to live with it. But…life does get better.”
Now I understand the truth of this line and the analogy – but I’m wondering if Mr. Loeb has been through a divorce. I understand he lost his son prior to writing the death of Captain America, so I am quite sure he is acquainted with grief and loss… but divorce is a death in a way, if we are speaking in those terms of the end of a relationship… a much more serious form of death than that of a boyfriend/girlfriend break-up.
I’m not sure if everyone “gets over” their divorce. Mine wasn’t a nasty, ugly affair – it was pretty amicable, though I’m sure she might have a different take on it.
And unfortunately, I’ve made a major misstep as far as dealing with the fallout. I denied my feelings of anger and betrayal. I swallowed them and didn’t vent them because of a number of factors. Suffice it to say that I didn’t feel I had the right to let my anger out because there was another event happening at the same time as the break-up and I felt it would be selfish of me to dump my feelings onto her during that time. In hindsight I might be in a better place emotionally if I had, but I was trying to do the bigger thing, the unselfish thing.
In trying to deal with my feelings I’ve tried unsuccessfully to understand what happened, what is happening and what will happen all from within my own thoughts and feelings – again, the most foolish thing I can do. I’ve read a lot, thought a lot and naturally hurt a lot.
I would replay over and over moments from arguments and fights and try to understand what my fault in the whole thing is and was. And I keep forgetting to take into account the other side, her responsibility in the situation and what her perceptions and perspective of the whole thing.
I make suppositions and second guess the reality of what was happening. I guess that’s natural, and given the frustrating backdrop of non-communication, I make up my own answers.
Which is wrong.
And I wonder why I still hurt. Why I still have a need to pick at the scab instead of letting the healing process finish.
What I would like to happen is for me to be able to vent these feelings to the one who caused them, to rant and rail and scream and say all the vile and horrible things that I didn’t say when we were in the same room.
I don’t think it’s selfish to want that. I don’t think it’s unreasonable or that it’s too late to try and get the closure I need.
I also don’t think I will ever get a chance to do it, and therefore, I am miserable and heartsick and stuck.
You must dare to disassociate yourself from those who would delay your journey… Leave, depart, if not physically, then mentally. Go your own way, quietly, undramatically, and venture toward trueness at last. – Vernon Howard
It took me a long time to realize or to get used to the idea that what was, was no more and that I had to re-learn how to be a single. And try as I might I couldn’t get back to center – I couldn’t just Be.
Over the days and weeks and months since my divorce, I’ve had glimpses of that familiar feeling… I know at some point I will get back to that centered and healthy state… I just can’t say when it will happen. Everyone heals in their own time and my struggle with this pain will cease when it is done, and not a moment before.
When I began this post I debated whether or not to divulge the inspiration for it, or rather the ‘hidden information’ I was hinting at and just post the section on getting at the truth of What Do I Want?
So, again, after this long-winded rambling it all comes down to What Do I Want?
I want a better resolution. I want to know that it wasn’t a waste.
I want to know that I won’t get past it, get over it or move on – but rather integrate it into my life, learn from it, grow and once more achieve a sense of Just Being.
I want to be sane. I want to be whole.
I’d quote the Stones here, but that seems too obvious J
Instead I give you George Michael -
So every day I see you in some other face
They crack a smile, talk a while
Try to take your place
My memory serves me far too well
I just sit here on this mountain thinking to myself
You’re a fool boy
Why don’t you go down
Find somebody else
My memory serves me far too well
It’s not as though we just broke up
It’s not as though it was yesterday
But something I just can’t explain
Something in me needs this pain
I know I’ll never see your face again
I’ve got to be strong now
Now everybody’s talking about this new decade
Like you say the magic numbers
Then just say goodbye to
The stupid mistakes you made
Oh my memory serves me far too well
Don’t you know that
The years will come and go
Some of us will change our lives
Some of us still have nothing to show
And if these wounds
They are self-inflicted
I don’t really know
How my poor heart could have protected me
But if I have to carry this pain
If you will not share the blame
I deserve to see your face again
You don’t have to be so strong now
Come back to me darling
I will make it worth your while
Come back to your baby
I miss your kiss
I miss your smile
Seems to me the peace I search to find
Ain’t going to be mine until you say you will
Don’t you keep me waiting for that day
I know, I know, I know
You hear these words that I say
You can’t always get what you want